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How Minecraft Helped Me to Combat Loneliness by Sky Tunley-Stainton

It was Christmas Day and I was 6,000km away from my partner and family. I loved my job and had made good friends while abroad, but it was very isolating to be away from my loved ones at a time that was so built around routine and togetherness.

I got a message from my partner to join our Minecraft server. We’d been spending time on the server together from afar, so I was excited to be able to see him and hang out for a little while. What I found when I logged in is honestly still to this day one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.

2 minecraft characters sit on a sofa together

In front of me, in the center of our base, was an enormous spruce tree covered in coloured glass blocks and light sources. We weren’t far along on the server at the time, so it must have been pretty difficult to create something on that scale. Beneath the tree were several chests (which were, of course, re-skinned as gifts for the season as always) and an enormous gift made of wool blocks. My Christmas gift that year was a set of fully enchanted diamond armour and tools, and inside the wool gift were two Minecraft cats for me to tame and keep.

If anyone’s ever drawn a picture for you, written a poem, or produced anything creative for you, you’ll know how this gesture made me feel. Even years later it’s a memory I treasure and helped form my belief that games are so powerful when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships.

Last year, on our anniversary, it was my partner’s turn to be away for work. Each November we would usually watch a fireworks display together, but with him away in Scotland – and with Covid restrictions still in place – this was not going to be possible. Inspired by his thoughtfulness in previous years, I spent hours in Minecraft working out how to craft all the different types of firework rocket and setting up a (very rudimentary) redstone fireworks display. We logged in and, as the Minecraft sun set, we were able to watch the fireworks together as we always did.

This isn’t something unique to me, either: the game has been used for people all over the world to stay connected during what was perhaps the most isolating time of all of our lives. For just one other of many examples, The Warren Project ran a Minecraft server to connect young people during lockdown, helping them maintain friendships, and make new ones, from afar.

At some of my loneliest moments, Minecraft has helped me connect and share experiences, proving that games can be vital in the fight against loneliness.

Words by Sky Tunley-Stainton

Skills utilised:
News, Stories

How to Combat Loneliness in a Sea of Solitude by Georgie Peru

Loneliness is a personal feeling, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will differ. Being alone doesn’t by proxy make you lonely; loneliness breeds from an emotional state of loss, whether that be loss of social contact, loss of a person, or feeling lost within yourself. 

Ironically, knowing that others in the big wide world that surrounds us are too feeling lonely, brings a sense of connection and togetherness. Exploring themes relating to loneliness and indulging in such scenarios in the form of video games can bring an overwhelming sense of relief. Relief that all of our journeys somehow coincide and offer hope, through understanding mental health in a relatable way and finding the light, even in the darkest of moments.

Sea of Solitude is a very personal game, developed by Jo-Mei Games, which takes you on a journey of loneliness. You play as a young woman called Kay; covered in black tendrils with eyes burning red like the sun, you have a deep feeling of loss, and that’s the thing, you are lost. Kay hits the nail on the head early on by saying “I’m still trying to piece it together. What is wrong with me? Where am I?”. 

It’s a very poignant position to be in; controlling a character whose deep-set loneliness has affected her physical appearance. Unraveling the narrative, you and Kay learn how the gnarly monsters in Sea of Solitude connect to people in her life or as manifestations of her internal battle of emotions that can be interpreted by the player.

As Kay, herself, is a monster, she is in a unique position where she can talk to other monsters. It’s soon revealed that the monsters in Sea of Solitude are experiencing their own issues. Being able to relate to someone (or something) else who is also going through the same struggles presents a sense of understanding, sharing pain to bridge a connection.

Just like in “real-life”, the monsters in the game start to regain parts of their humanity by opening up and talking about their pain. This kind of narrative displays the daily struggles of mental health and the realisation of catharsis when a person is able to open up about their pain of loneliness by talking to others and understanding that other people are going through a similar experience.

Cornelia Geppert, Creative Director and Writer of Sea of Solitude sends a message that shared pain can reduce loneliness. Geppert herself was experiencing one of the “loneliest points” of her life when she had the idea of the game. Sea of Solitude constantly reminds us that sharing our internal struggles and pain with others, or finding something we can relate to, can bring a sense of peace and serenity – where it be loneliness, depression, anxiety, or something else.

Loneliness can make you feel like you’re drowning, especially when you’re hit with obstacle after obstacle, and this is something else Sea of Solitude touches upon. Playing as Kay, it’s very much drummed into the character and the player that “if you don’t succeed, try, try again”. If you’re unable to overcome an obstacle, Kay stands back up a few seconds before the point she failed, allowing you to easily try again without going through more pain and suffering.

There will always be bumps in the road, but the beauty of what Sea of Solitude teaches us is that everything can be overcome, as long as you keep trying at your own pace. All you can do is try, and eventually, you will succeed. Whilst Sea of Solitude is a game about loneliness, it shows us that loneliness and other mental health issues can be combatted by facing them head-on; by relating to other people, or scenarios that allow us to share a mutual pain. It shows us that we are even more connected than we ever thought we were.

Yes, there will be times where we feel like we’re drowning, and just as we start to paddle and keep our heads above water, our boat capsizes again and again. But above all, the darkness that loneliness brings will always shed light – there is always hope that we can uncover in metaphors, in games, and in life.


Georgie Peru’s Muckrack

Georgie is a bright, friendly and outgoing person. She is a highly analytical and technical individual who has a passion and the right mind-set for thought-provoking work, particularly focusing on content writing and web writing.

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

Hub World – Loneliness

Hub World – Loneliness (January)

Welcome to Hub World! Each month I will be discussing a topic we have been reflecting on throughout the month and how we, as a community, tackle it in our daily lives.

Loneliness and isolation is a complex feeling that comes in many forms, rather than it’s strongest association of being physically alone. You can feel lonely surrounded by hundreds of people, or even within a group of close friends and loved ones. This might be because you feel like you are unable to connect with those around you on an emotional level, which in turn leads to putting on a social mask in order to interact with others in the day to day – so as not to feel like a burden to those around you.

Last month at Safe In Our World, we thought about loneliness, the impact it has had on us and those around us and how we have tackled this feeling – particularly during the pandemic.

During this time, one of the most important things for me was to find a way to reconnect with my mum, who lives alone and has had a tough few months. When I was young, we used to play video games together – or she would watch and experience a game’s narrative with me. That’s something that we have been missing since we began living apart, so I hatched a plan to bring her back into that world via the Nintendo Switch and online play in Animal Crossing.

I spent several hours over Christmas setting up an ‘event space’ on my Animal Crossing Island, filled with presents and decorations. Once my mum had received the Switch, we spent time talking over the phone as she learned the basics of the game and after a couple of days I brought her to my island, where she was surprised with a variety of goodies! It’s one of the best decisions I have made during lockdown and it has been a joy to see her re-engage with games again and for us to be able to play together like we used to.

Antonela Pounder

Our ability to go wherever whenever has been taken away from all of us, which I’ve found brings about a feeling of loneliness, even if you don’t live alone. Forming new friendships with others through current friendships has been incredible. We basically now have our own online support bubble where we talk about anything and everything (but try to avoid COVID chat!) Calls almost every evening has helped hugely, whether this be on Discord or using PlayStation parties, as well as engaging in online multiplayer gaming sessions together. Regular communication has been key, whether it be with friends, family and/or colleagues.

Marie Shanley

As the world deals with loneliness caused by the isolation of the pandemic, the advice that I have given out over and over on the channel is to check out streaming platforms and try to connect with others who share your interests: whether that’s gaming, knitting, painting miniatures, or anything else really.

The best thing is seeing people find lasting friendships, as they are connecting with others through various platforms. My stream is centred around mental health discussions, so friendships are forged through helping to support others with similar mental health concerns.

Richard Lee Breslin

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do and how many people you have around you. We can (and have) all experience loneliness in our lives.

Despite being a happily married man with a wonderful son, I can still feel lonely. I have a tendency to lock my troubles away in the back of my mind and my reluctance to talk can isolate me despite being surrounded by loving people. During times of the global pandemic we can be cut-off from seeing loved ones and friends. Thankfully we have modern day technology and social media at our call.

Social media has played a huge role in our lives pre-pandemic but now it’s more important than ever. If there are some positives taken from this pandemic, it’s made me cherish those smaller moments and I’ve even gained some great friends.

I know it may feel difficult at times not being with friends and loved ones, but if you can, don’t cut yourself off from your world. Let your loved ones and friends know that you’re thinking of them, because they’ll be feeling the same about you too.

Harry Burton

Loneliness can easily creep up on you, I have personally found that it can be the first step leading to a downward spiral – usually leading to less focus on caring for your own mental health and wellbeing needs.

Something which has helped me considerably is Digital Fitness through social media and applications such as Peloton and Nike. No matter your equipment or goals there are communities to help you stay focused, spread positivity and offer advice. Particularly on Facebook and Strava I have connected with new people through the shared vision of reaching our goals.

You’ll find people are eager to listen and support you through the pursuit of staying active!

The Demented Raven

Whenever some of my friends have had a rough day or feel alone, we decide to play video games to brighten up our day. One of these games is Overwatch and it always ends up with wholesome laughs, silliness, banter and pure joys of friendship. Video games have the power to really help people reach out and are a reminder that you’re never alone. 

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Emma Withington is a freelance writer and PR account executive at Bastion who has worked on campaigns for a variety of titles, including Control and Final Fantasy XIV: Online.

She is currently spending time focusing on the wider community and how she can help others through her personal journey with mental health.

Twitter.

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

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